Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Shots in the night

My friend Harvey’s Costa Rica tale

By Ed Rogers

Living in Costa Rica from the United States and having friends among Costa Ricans is not a common thing. The Costa Rican people are very friendly and most would bend over backwards to help you. However, they know that one day you will be going back to the States (and you know it too). So in some ways their (and our) minds protects us from the hurt of losing a close friend by not allowing us to get past a certain line toward closeness.
    Janie and I have had very little to do with the expats who live in our area. They seem to be more interested in saving the world than in becoming friends, so that, for them, you are one more person they can use to reach their goals. My feeling about these people: if they are so damn good at saving anything how come they are not back in the States helping their own people? And the Ticos think they are a bunch of assholes trying to remake Costa Rica into the United States of America.

Harvey and his wife Ileana, with our dog Del
[from a photo shown in Sunday’s column]
Enough about them – this is a story about my friend Harvey. He was in Costa Rica for 11 years, right up until yesterday. He married a Tica, bought a house here in San Ramon, and a bar, plus land over on the coast. Before coming to Costa Rica, Harvey wrote songs, owned a river touring company, worked as a National Parks guide, and did a number of other outdoor jobs. Guns, houses, and the rough and tumble life of living off the land were all he knew. His songs reflected his life.
    I guess his way of living was why he invested all his money here in Costa Rica. His attitude was, “If you are going to do something, then commit to it.” Mine has always been to have a Plan B.
    Harvey became a citizen of Costa Rica, and as such he could own guns. This turned out to be his downfall. He is not one of the NRA nut cases – he believes guns need to be regulated. He even goes beyond what I believe is needed. But he carried a .45 everyplace he went around here – that is, until yesterday, when he caught a plane back to the States.

Harvey’s bar
Harvey’s world turned to shit two years ago. He had leased the bar to a Costa Rican couple and they had not paid him for two months. So he and his wife confronted the couple and told them to pack their stuff and leave the property. The couple agreed to leave without much fuss, so Harvey and his wife left and later went out to eat. By the time they finished eating it was dark, and Harvey decided to drive back up to the bar.
    I can tell you only Harvey’s side of the story, because I was not there. He said that when he arrived at the bar, 10 or 12 people were removing everything from the bar, including the toilets. He shouted at them to drop the stuff and put up their hands. (After 11 years, he spoke good Spanish.) They dropped the stuff but then started coming toward him, whereupon he pulled his .45 and popped off three or four rounds into the sky, prompting everybody to run for the hills.
    The next day he had someone go and lock everything down, and the thing with the gun was forgotten. After all, it had only been a few shots into the air—no big deal.
    A week or so later he got a notice in the mail that a complaint had been filed against him by the couple he was evicting, who were claiming that he had fired the gun at them.
    A little Costa Rican Law: It is the Tico’s word against the gringo’s – never favorable to the gringo. Ask any Mexican living in Texas whose side Texas law takes.
    Also, they can arrest you here and hold you for up to a year in jail without charging you, while they build a case.
    In Harvey’s case, if he were taken to trial and found guilty, he could face up to eight years in jail. The eight years is important because at any time during that eight years they could take him to trial. They could even charge him and never go to trial, but it would be hanging over his head for the rest of the eight years.
    Harvey got word last week that the court was planning to go ahead with a trial, which meant he would soon be arrested. The government here closes down for 14 days around Christmas and New Years, so he had a small window during which to skedaddle before his passport was red-flagged. He rented his house to a couple and sold as much stuff, like guns, as he could for 25 cents on the dollar. He brought me money and paperwork for paying taxes and other bills and flew out yesterday morning, December 28.

I’ll miss Harvey. He grew up a GI brat like me, so both of us spent most of our childhood traveling from base to base. He was the only real person I’ve met here – other than the Ticos, that is. I told him, “You know, Harv, if you hadn’t had that damn gun, you never would have gone up there alone in the first place. But because you had the gun, caution took a backseat.”
    Harvey has about six years left before he can be sure he is in the clear over this gun thing. At our age, I doubt we will ever see each other again – but it was fun while it lasted.
Del loved Harvey too

Copyright © 2015 by Ed Rogers


  1. This is a sad tale, Ed, even if Harvey seems to have "brought it down on himself." Your comparison with Texas Law is royal. I admire the wryness that life has educated your eye in.

  2. To those new to Blogger: Blogger can seem daunting to new commenters. Many commenters just select "Comment as" Anonymous and "sign" their name in the body of their comment. Or select "Comment as" Name/URL" and give their name in the "Name" field (leaving the "URL" field blank). In any case, ALWAYS copy the text of your comment to the pasteboard prior to clicking "Preview" or "Publish," in case the comment goes into "Google Land," and you need to re-enter it. (I always do this myself.)